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The Literal Dogs of War Take Center Stage in “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero”

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Since it’s made for kids, you’ll probably want to know at the outset whether your own kids might be traumatized by a dog death in Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero. And the best answer to that question is that director Richard Lanni’s animated film is an education-focused and age-appropriate true story of the official mascot of the 102nd infantry regiment, who participated in seventeen battles on the Western Front during World War I, returning home as a hero.

However, at no point during the 85-minute runtime are any characters struck by the realization that dogs are delicate little babies that should be kept as far away as possible from war zones. Absolutely no offense is intended toward the brave bomb sniffers currently deployed overseas — they are very good dogs and also very good soldiers who deserve to be thanked for their service by the country-pop singers at USO shows.

But come on. It’s like putting a baby on the edge of a cliff. Stubby charges through shell bombardments, he snatches away live grenades to save his human buddies. Every German soldier who spots Stubby tries to shoot him. When Stubby warns his company of an impending nerve gas attack by running through a battlefield into the trenches and tugging their gas masks, it’s impossible to forget that Stubby can’t wear one.

The script is only lightly didactic and well-paced, and it nods toward the adults in the audience mainly by not insulting their intelligence — except for one tiny moment when the otherwise non-anthropomorphized Stubby sees a superior officer, comes to attention, and salutes with his little paw.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero
Directed by Richard Lanni
Fun Academy Motion Pictures
Opens April 13

 

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